Managing Your Business
Baseball Gives Nearby Businesses a Major League Bump
For Bar and Restaurant Owners, Opportunity Knocks in October
Playoff baseball means sellouts inside the ballpark and more foot traffic outside, which can be a significant boost to the bottom line for nearby businesses.
The last 18 months have been remarkable for the HiBoy Drive-In, located just a mile from home of the Kansas City Royals. Last season the Royals made it all the way to Game 7 of the World Series. With success came more fans, and more customers to the HiBoy.
Consider that the Royals averaged just 21,614 fans per regular season game in 2013 at Kauffman Stadium, which is eight miles east of downtown Kansas City. This season, as the Royals marched toward their second World Series in two years, that number was 33,425.
“We definitely see a difference on game days," says Jim Messick, who runs the HiBoy location near the stadium. "We've had a lot more business in the last 18 months."
The increase in fan traffic near the HiBoy has caused Messick to adjust his staff numbers. He says on a typical non-game day, he has eight people working per shift, but when the Royals are in town, the number increases to 12 or 13.
New York State of Business
McFadden's Citi Field is in its sixth year of operation and is experiencing its first World Series. Even the lead-up to the Mets' postseason has been a boon for the restaurant and bar at the ballpark.
“McFadden's Citi Field is only open on game days or during special events," says Amani Mousa, a supervisor at McFadden's. "Our business is reflective of how many tickets are sold to a game, and when the Mets play better, they sell more seats, which increases our business."
Mousa adds that they usually open the doors three hours prior to a home game but open even earlier for events such as the Subway Series (when the Mets play the Yankees), Opening Day, and now the playoff games.
Piggybacking on the Mets' success, McFadden's is opening during the team's away post-season games so fans can gather at Citi Field and feel part of the action. “We ran very aggressive specials and promotions to help draw in a crowd," Mousa explains. That crowd has been featured on national television during away games.
Brewing Outside the Ballpark
In Toronto, fans packing Rogers Centre and flock to Steam Whistle Brewing, an independent Canadian craft brewer, located just outside the home of the Blue Jays.
“When the Jays are in town, we typically see an almost 30 percent increase in onsite beer sales," says communications director Sybil Taylor, who adds that evening traffic to the brewery rose this season as the team averaged about 5,000 more fans per game than in 2014.
The increased foot traffic led Steam Whistle to extend its hours to accommodate thirsty fans, and Taylor says they've added three more staff members per shift to help with bartending and brewery tours on game days as the Blue Jays made it to the American League Championship Series.
Plus, on the weekends, the brewery has hosted events with DJs, local food trucks, and big-screen televisions so fans without tickets can enjoy the game day atmosphere.
Catering to Cubs Mania
In Chicago, where the Cubs were hoping for their first World Series title since 1908 until they fell to the Mets in the league championship series, fan excitement drove more business for establishments near Wrigley Field and more hours for their employees.
Tracie Irvine of Sheffield's Beer & Wine Garden estimates the barbeque-and-craft-beer hangout located a few blocks south of Wrigley adds an extra one-third more staff during Cubs playoff games to meet demand.
“There are approximately 30 to 40 percent more Cubs fans during the playoffs this year compared to the regular and previous seasons," Irvine says.
Even when the Cubs were out of town, Sheffield's received a boost from crazed baseball fans. The restaurant added televisions and heaters in its outdoor tents in the beer garden.
Understanding Your Customers
Regardless of the city, understanding your audience can result in a business home run.
“For us, it depends on the day of the week and the time of year," says Messick. “If there is a promotion at the stadium, fans eat here earlier and go to the stadium earlier. If it's hot or raining, they tend to hang out here right until game time. For a day game, we have a rush before and after, but for a night game, more people go home immediately afterward. But we also find more people want to stay out after a win than a loss."
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Illustration by Chris Gash | Michael Austin runs Basketball Coach Weekly while also serving as a contributing editor for This Is AFCA (American Football Coaches Association) magazine.